Barb Goldberg is not evil, but she is wickedly funny. And having a great sense of humor, according to the author of The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh, should be a pre-requisite for prospective step parents.
After all, she explains, when it isn’t happening to you, it really is quite funny. Barb isn’t that different from the rest of us. Most of us ignore the 75% divorce rate for marriages with children, yet we enter into a blended family with high hopes and trusting that everything will work out just fine. Barb remarried after dating for two and a half years, bringing a six year old son to join her new husband and his three kids, ages ten, 13, and15. Over twenty years later, she admits that she didn’t have a clue that she would be inserted into the fairy tale as the Evil Stepmother.
In the beginning, she was welcomed into the family by his kids. They were well acquainted and everyone was happy with the proposed marriage. But it’s one thing to love each other and it’s quite another thing to live together, Barb explains. We were all in on the plan, but then things started to come up.
24/7 Modern Mom™ wanted to know, “What went wrong first?”
Barb didn’t want to share all the details to protect the innocent, but she clearly remembers the moment. It was early in the tale when she recalls, “oh wait, here come my opinions.” And they were not welcome. It was her first clue that the evil stepmother fairy tale is alive and well and she was playing the starring role. She learned much later that there’s a scientific basis for her role as stepmother in duress, and it’s based in neuroscience. We all grew up with the evil stepmother stories. Our brains are only responsible for taking in the data. And then we get comfortable with it because we hear the same or similar versions of the fairy tale over and over. We can’t combat that because our brains like to keep us comfortable and they are better at remembering data in story form than any other input. As far as the evil step mother is concerned, we all know instinctively to pull back, divert our eyes, and feel sorry for the kids.
The Evil Stepmother Speaks is Barb’s love letter to step families. Her mission is to save the world, one stepfamily at a time by teaching them how to love, laugh and blend.
Her number one tip is that step parenting requires a sense of humor. “If you don’t have it, don’t do it!” says Barb. Others will assume that you are the trophy wife and joke about how you may not have the goods to back up the title. You can’t take this stuff seriously or you will be miserable. Put your sense of humor in gear and just have fun!
Her second tip is to always remember that silence is your best friend. After all, Barb explains, “none of us really knows what’s best anyway.” Your opinion is no more valid than your husbands or his ex-wife’s. And as stepmother, “no one wants your opinion, so just let it go.” And this means keep it zipped in front of the children and zipped even tighter when you are alone with your husband. Get help if this causes you pain. You can talk to a friend, a priest, a therapist, anyone, but don’t nag at your husband or your step children. Although this sounds like good cop/bad cop, where the bio-dad has to make and enforce the rules, while you get to overlook it all and be the fun one, it really is more like having two teams, explained Barb. She is the coach of her team and her husband is the coach of his. She doesn’t step in for him, so, out of necessity he has to stay in the game.
And her third tip? It is to simply “be home base.” Remember that you arrived after a divorce. Your husband may overindulge or ease up on disciplining his bio children because he feels guilty. If you’re on the same page, he’ll work through it. If you aren’t, you’ll make him want to coddle them even more if you get in the middle of it. Make your home a place where your step children want to be. Have fun with them. Play with them. Make them comfort food. And be honest with yourself. If you don’t want to be there, they won’t either. Barb describes her relationship with her step children as a trusted advisor-somewhere between a parent and a friend. As she cautions that new step parents have to be very patient and let that status develop over several years. Remember that they are growing up, that they will be slobs, and that they will be difficult at times—not because of the divorce or the remarriage, but because they are kids. Being a step parent “forces us to love unconditionally and to love from a distance,” Barb advises. Love with detachment and be a compassionate watcher.
Barb is an author, blogger, and coach/teacher who is committed to helping other step families by rewriting the fairy tale. You can find her book on Amazon, now available paperback and soon-to-be released on Kindle. You can find more about her and her other services on her website, TheEvilStepmotherSpeaks.com. For more tips and laughter, be sure to follow Barb on Twitter: @stepmomspeaks
By: Peggy Harper Lee